The Wisconsin Badgers (3-2, 0-1), coming off of a disheartening 10-6 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes last Saturday, travel out to the Great Plains to defend the Freedom Trophy against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-3, 0-1) in Lincoln, Neb. on Saturday.
Outside linebacker Joe Schobert looks to continue his hot start to the 2015 season against quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. and the Huskers offense. Schobert currently leads the nation in both sacks (9) and tackles for loss (13). The Wisconsin defense ranks fourth in the nation in points allowed (9.6 points per game). Redshirt senior wide receiver Alex Erickson returned to practice on Thursday, and if he doesn't experience any symptoms from his concussion, could likely return to the line-up to face a Huskers pass defense that ranks dead last in the nation.
Armstrong and the Nebraska receiving corp should pose a challenge for the Wisconsin secondary. Will the Huskers take advantage against the Badgers -- and will true freshman running back and former UW commit Jordan Stevenson, who will reportedly burn his redshirt to play Saturday, make an impact on special teams or the offense?
For more on Nebraska and their disappointing 2015 start, check out Andrew Rosin's preview:
Looking at the stat sheet, and there is one thing that jumps out at you, Nebraska is the worst defense against the pass -- and I do not mean this in some sort of internet hyperbole either. The 353.8 yards per game through the air that the Cornhuskers have allowed beats the 127th nationally ranked team by 16 full yards. I don't expect the Badgers to keep the gap as wide as it is coming in, between the fact that the Badgers are down tight end Austin Traylor plus still are checking to see if there's no recurrence of headaches to make sure wide receiver Alex Erickson can go on Saturday as I write this and the sheer simple fact that the identity is of a team that runs the ball.
But as Nebraska is a team that gives up yardage through the air and is currently down it's best pass rusher in freshman defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun. who is out for the game on Saturday -- the Badgers are going to find purchase through the air even if it's Troy Fumagalli, Robert Wheelwright, and a thousand screens and Texas concepts.
Nebraska's running defense has been statistically better than the Badgers, as their 85 yards per game allowed has them two spots above the Badgers nationally. But a deeper look shows you that there might be a good day to be had on the ground. For one thing, they are tied for second for fewest rushing attempts allowed per game and are 22nd against the run overall on a per play basis 3.08 yards per carry. But the Cornhuskers are as strong as they are on the backs of absolutely murderizing South Alabama and Southern Mississippi against the run.
Take away the 47 carries and 30 yards they were able to manage, and Nebraska's allowing 131.67 yards per game and 4.08 yards per carry against the power five and BYU, opponents who are statistically weaker than the Badgers on paper. Not to say that there's a guarantee that the Badgers heal with Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale on the ground here, but Nebraska defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Final Fantasy VII hero Vincent Valentine limited by injury and backup Kevin Maurice another piece of the defensive line who is set to miss the game this weekend, the Badger offensive line has a chance to make something happen, even if sophomore linebacker Chris Weber turns his 29 tackles in the last two weeks into a streak.
Nebraska likes it's receiving corps a lot, and with the way that Brandon Reilly has stepped in to replace Kenny Bell as the vertical threat through the air, it's not hard to see why. Jordan Westerkamp has stepped up his possession receivership, and Alonzo Moore and Stanley Morgan Jr. have both shown themselves valid options through the air for Tommy Armstrong, Jr.. That said, Armstrong Jr. is currently 55-for-117 through the air against the power five and BYU. Illinois was able to generate pressure and Miami Florida was able to pick him off. With the way outside linebackers Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel are playing and the Badgers talented and senior-laden secondary behind them, Armstrong might be in for a day of struggle even if De'Mornay Pierson-El is ready to be useful.
Right now, the running game for Nebraska is in a committee mode as fullback Andy Janovich and running back Devine Ogizbo have both begun to supplant Terrell Newby in the backfield in terms of who gets the carries. It's not a situation where you're going to expect the Badgers to be dominant, as Newby has shown himself to be a solid back with moments of brilliance -- but this is the biggest test Nebraska has received on the ground to be sure.
Read below for the game's complete viewing information.
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers | Saturday, Oct. 10 | 3:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. CT | Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
Live stream: The game can be live streamed on WatchESPN.com
Mobile: WatchESPN mobile app for iOS and Android phones.
TV crew: Jason Horowitz (play-by-play), Derek Rackley (analyst)
Radio: Badger Sports Network; Satellite: Sirius 135, XM 195; Mobile: iHeartRadio app (WIBA)
Radio crew: Matt Lepay (play-by-play), Mike Lucas (analyst), Patrick Herb (sideline reporter)
Odds: Wisconsin -1.5, 49 o/u